Choosing to have a child is an exciting decision. But for women with scoliosis, pregnancy and childbirth are often fraught with anxiety. Many wonder if someone with scoliosis can even have a baby safely.
The reality is that risks are a natural part of pregnancy, whether you have an abnormal spine or not. But just how does the scoliosis affect the entire process, from conception to delivery? Below are answers to some of the most common questions women ask about pregnancy and scoliosis.
Can I (And Should I) Get Pregnant If I Have Scoliosis?
Scoliosis often makes women hesitant to get pregnant. Many fear complications, birth defects, or even fertility problems — but decades of research suggest their fears are unfounded.
Scientists have determined scoliosis doesn’t cause any particular complications — pregnancy, labor, delivery, or fetal — compared to women without it. It also doesn’t appear to diminish fertility or increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, or birth defects. Even women who have had spinal fusion surgery can get pregnant.
“Women who have been successfully treated for scoliosis have only minor or no additional risks at all for complications during pregnancy and delivery,” says the University of Maryland Medical Center. “A history of scoliosis does not endanger the child.”
Will My Baby Have Scoliosis?
Ongoing genomic variant testing and research by ScoliSMART Labs is continuing to identify the idiopathic scoliosis genetic factors a baby may inherent from their parents. Previous research indicates the risk of passing your scoliosis genes onto your children are 29% if you have a daughter, but only 9% if you have a son. In either case, new functional genomic variant testing can identify these genes, and their impact on scoliosis can be lessened with specific nutrient therapies. To learn more, visit our page on genetically guided clinical testing for scoliosis.
Still, having scoliosis doesn’t guarantee that your child will, too. Only about a third of children whose parents have scoliosis will develop it. The risk can also depend on your baby’s gender, since scoliosis is far more prevalent in girls than in boys.
Will Pregnancy Cause My Curves to Progress?
Women with scoliosis often wonder whether pregnancy will make their curvature worse. The good news is that as long as the curve has already stopped progressing, weight gain from pregnancy won’t propel it further.
“Having one or more pregnancies does not appear to affect curve progression in scoliosis,” says orthopedic surgeon and researcher Josh E. Schroeder. While this may seem counterintuitive, it is believed the body releases a hormone called “relaxin” during pregnancy that relaxes your ligaments throughout the pelvis, and possibly the spine, allowing for the added stress on the scoliosis curve.
He acknowledges there is some evidence that among patients who have previously worn a brace, pregnant women “had a higher risk of curve progression compared with never-pregnant women.” But, he adds, “the overall strength of evidence for this conclusion is low.”
Will My Scoliosis Symptoms Get Worse During Pregnancy?
For women with scoliosis, pregnancy triggers the same symptoms as women without scoliosis experience.
For example, nearly all women have mild to moderate back pain at some point during their pregnancy, making it difficult to tell whether the pain stems from the pregnancy or scoliosis. However, a pre-existing back condition (such as scoliosis) does increase the risk of lower back pain during pregnancy.
Back pain can start as early three months and continue for up to six months after delivery. By the ninth month, the likelihood of lower back pain reaches 50 percent.
Breathlessness is another common symptom pregnant women experience, particularly in the early months. This is due to the rise in progesterone, which increases both respiratory rate and depth. Expectant mothers with scoliosis may experience mildly restricted lung capacity, but they rarely have breathing problems.
Does Scoliosis Complicate Labor?
Once upon a time, doctors automatically scheduled C-sections for women with scoliosis. But as more and more women opt for vaginal delivery, doctors are discovering it can be done successfully — without any unusual complications.
For the most part, delivery is the same for women with and without scoliosis, but there are a few differences:
- Expectant mothers with crooked hips can experience “stalls” during labor due to malpositioning of the baby
- Women weakened by scoliosis may have a harder time pushing during labor
- Scoliosis can make it difficult to receive an epidural, especially for those who have had spinal fusion surgery
Women who are pregnant with scoliosis should discuss delivery and pain management options with their doctor well before they go into labor.
“I’m currently trying to get pregnant and one of my biggest fears is the amount of pain I’ll be putting myself through and also whether or not an epidural will be possible when the time comes.”
—Sheri of Scoliosis Warriors
Can You Have an Epidural If You Have Scoliosis?
Generally speaking, yes. The epidural shot is given in the space just below the end of the spinal cord, and the bending and twisting of scoliosis still allows for enough space for the epidural to be given.
Pregnancy After Spinal Fusion
Spinal fusion surgery does not automatically mean you can’t have a normal pregnancy or delivery, but it could affect your likelihood of receiving an epidural with scoliosis. The concerns regarding scoliosis surgery and epidurals generally is in regards to the risks of inserting the epidural needle into an area with extensive surgical hardware.
How Can I Support My Body During Pregnancy and Delivery?
Your physical condition can make a big difference in the outcome of your delivery. Stretches can help relieve back pain, while strengthening exercises help support the birthing process and improve the baby’s positioning. Regular chiropractic adjustments to keep your spine in alignment can also be beneficial to your baby’s position.
If you have scoliosis and are considering becoming pregnant, there are treatments that can help prepare your body for the process. Through brain-muscle retraining and nutritional support, you can stop scoliosis progression and reduce pain to pave the way for an easier pregnancy.
What If My Scoliosis Is Severe?
In cases of severe scoliosis, getting pregnant can be a bit riskier than usual:
- Back pain can be significantly worse for women with severe curves
- Breathing problems may occur later in the pregnancy
- Both the baby and the scoliosis curve may need to be closely monitored
To prevent complications, women with severe scoliosis should consult their doctor before becoming pregnant.
Legions of women with scoliosis have successfully carried and delivered healthy babies. Your doctor can work with you to ensure you will be one of them.